Somewhere between the years of 1962 and 1965, my father still had three brothers. He receieved a Pretzel Jetzel for Christmas when he was about fourteen. And on top of their tree perched Hazel the Drunken Angel, a plaster ornament with a blazing starburst behind her (several of the points broken), frazzly pine-needle combed hair, and a flowing cotton gown. She bent crookedly over the blossoming Foutz family--which was at the time still 5/6 male, and living in Oregon. I think this yearly experience of 'surprising' presents and embarrassing traditions fueled my father's holiday spirited oddities.
In the years 1988 through 1995, my Christmases were spent in Montana on a wide stretch of mountain rangy ranch. The Open Gate Ranch. I went sledding down the hill in the horse's pen and ran into a small pine tree, cutting up my face. I ate snow with a spoon. We made a home-video of the entire Christmas extravaganza in 1992 and all the foster kids laughed when I wouldn't say hello to Dollie. Oh, and I got the chicken pox. Terrific.
The holiday of 2001 was hell. Jon had left for boot camp three days before Christmas, and the mostly-Canadian relatives that lived in the Phillipines were visiting for December, giving their children a dozen presents each. I sat crying, alone in my bedroom with my three 'Redwall' books--that I have not read to this day--and a girlish, flowery quilt. All because Chris got his car repossessed. We paid it off and ruined Christmas--but it's all for the best, since it's mine now and I've named it Melchizedek. (this is actually the Christmas that I DON'T forget, but I mention it anyways just for the sake of having a crappy Christmas memory)
And in 2006 Chris came home from California and Jon came home from Japan, along with a slew of other post-Naval men--especially Tim. This is what I actually forget. I forget how the first guy just showed up. I forget waking up to scowly young men in my kitchen, staying long enough to play internet RPG games on their laptops before going to the airport. Damn sailors.
But Tim stayed. He had this open-minded and open-hearted way about him, kind of like Kyle had when he saw me after that six-year separation, leaning across the table saying, "You're brilliant, I want to know everything about you." It was like that. And he made me teach him how to play the piano, and told me honesty was the best policy, and promised to make me a cowrie necklace so he'd have an excuse to come back.
And it's years like these, this ending-2007-December, when I decorate the Christmas tree by myself and get hungry waiting for people to come home, that I long so desperately for that awkward companionship. I would take it willingly, when compared to this solitude, these hours in the house when there's no one to laugh with me, no one to bake cookies with and throw flour at, no one to put tinsel in my hair or sing songs with in the car.
No stranger even, to force a story out of me, just for the sake of seeing me smile.